Cedar Rapids’ automated traffic cameras generated 122,620 citations during the first six months after the city started using them again in July. The city also collected $3.1 million in fines for speeding or red light violations during those six months.
Majority of the citations — 98 percent — were issued for speeding, according to an analysis of monthly reports from July to December 2019. And more than 90 percent of the speeding citations were issued on I-380, where four out of the 10 cameras are located.
However, the number of citations issued has been declining every month so far.
In July, 26,424 citations were issued. In December, that number had dropped to 14,379 citations. Cedar Rapids public safety spokesperson Greg Buelow said in an email there are various factors that need to be considered with traffic data, such as weather conditions and seasonal traffic volumes.
Cedar Rapids began using the automated cameras in 2010, but stopped in mid-2017, while of a series of lawsuits worked their way through the courts. (The Iowa Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the city, saying Cedar Rapids’ speed cameras were legal and rejecting the claim that the cameras violate a driver’s right to due process.)
When the cameras were in use from 2010 to 2016, more than 500,000 tickets were issued. And in 2016 — the last full year before the cameras were deactivated — 143,800 tickets were given out, which is slightly under an average of 12,000 citations per month.
The city also saw a 37 percent reduction in overall crashes and a 62 percent reduction in crashes that involved injuries on I-380 when the cameras were activated, Buelow said.
Around $3 million a year was generated during those six years for the city’s general fund. (The revenue now goes toward hiring 10 additional police officers and an administrative assistant to help with processing the municipal infractions instead of the general fund.)
Shutting the cameras off in mid-2017 had a “profound effect on driving behavior,” Police Captain Cody Estling said. More motorists had been speeding, according to Estling. And the number of crashes and crashes resulting in injuries had increased, Buelow said.
The Cedar Rapids City Council approved reactivating the cameras at its May 28, 2019 meeting. The month of June served as a warning period for drivers, and the cameras were officially reactivated again on July 1, 2019.
The city receives $55 from a $75 speeding ticket and $78 from a $100 red light violation. The remainder goes to Sensys Gatso USA (formerly Gatso USA), a Massachusetts-based company that runs the traffic camera system.
Since reactivating the traffic cameras, the number of total crashes has varied, but the number of crashes with injury has remained low.
“What is significant with these statistics is that only 17.8 percent of crashes result in an injury based on the first 6 months of data,” Buelow said.
The city is also in the process of settling a class action lawsuit that challenged the methods the city used to collect unpaid traffic camera fines.
The lawsuit alleged the city was violating the due process rights of motorists because it treated people who hadn’t responded to its traffic fine notices as if they had been found guilty in a judicial proceeding, even though the alleged violation had never been submitted to a judge. The lawsuit also claimed the city’s process for appealing a ticket was inadequate.
The city plans to refund approximately $3 million in fines and late fees it had collected through the methods the lawsuit challenged. A third-party administrator will be hired to contact the 20,090 individuals eligible for a refund. Additionally, $14 million in fines that has not yet been collected will be canceled.
A hearing for final approval of the settlement is scheduled for June 25, according to filings in Linn County District Court.